By Tenzin Dharpo
Facebook post claiming Jhokhang caught fire/FB
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 17: Amid widespread speculations of the iconic Jhokang temple in Lhasa city in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR)being destroyed by fire, Phayul’s sources in Lhasa have confirmed that a nearby shrine has been destroyed by a fire earlier today and not the 7th Century shrine.
The Jokhang temple, considered sacred by Tibetans and built by Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo has suffered no damage.
A fire broke out on Saturday evening around 6:30 p.m. local time, the source said. The fire has since been put out by the authorities. No damage to sacred relics have been reported. The cause of the fire is not yet ascertained, a Tibetan living in Lhasa told Phayul.
No casualty has also been reported, considering the locality being in close proximity to the Jokhang temple which is usually packed with pilgrims and devotees. Today being the second day of the Tibetan new year is especially inclined to increased number of pilgrims in the area.
The Jokhang temple which was accorded the UNESCO World Heritage site along with the Potala Palace in the year 2000, houses the “Jhowo Rinpoche”, a holy statue of the Buddha.
The temple that houses the iconic Jhowo Shakyamuni suffered damage during the cultural revolution, after Chinese communist forces occupied Tibet in 1959, and later restored in the 1970’s.
satellite image of the Jokhang temple area. Shrined destroyed by fire marked red while Jokhang temple marked yellow.
However, Beijing based Chinese media house CGTN (China Global Television Network) reported that fire did break out at Jhokhang temple. "Local authorities said there are no casualties and no cultural relics were damaged," it said without citing any official or authorities' name.
At the time of this report going online, social networking sites and microblogging sites are flooded with videos of massive fire raging some building in what looks like residential dwellings in the Tibetan capital. However, the videos are taken from a distance from where it is difficult to ascertain the exact spot of the fire. A Facebook post by a user called Bah Meson (འབའ་མེ་སོན།) claims it was not the Jhokhang temple that caught fire but a nearby temple. The user claims he was actually outside the Jhokhang temple's circumambulation path when he was posting his comment. "About half an hour ago, there has been a rumor that the Jhokhang temple caught fire. However, it is not true but a temple nearby caught fire. I am actually circumambulating the Jhokhang right now. Please do not worry and stay relieved", he wrote in Tibetan. (translated) However, the authenticity of the user could not be verified.